There is a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to love in our culture. It doesn’t get any easier when you become a Christian. How are you to love your neighbor? Do you love your friends just like you love your spouse or family? Does God love us in the same way we love Him?
C.S. Lewis identified four types of love in his aptly titled book, “The Four Loves”. Each love is based on a Greek word from the same dialect used to write the New Testament. Sadly, English is one of the least descriptive languages to ever exist. That has caused us to often translate these Greek words into simply “love”.
Storge: The Empathy Bond
Storge is the first of Lewis’ loves. It could be also be called “familial love”. It is the love parents have for their child and the love children have for their parents. It is also the love of people who bond by result of circumstance. It is natural affection. Lewis describes it as a dependency-based love.
That being said, it is the love which most easily transcends cultural and racial diversity. That is because it is the most natural. It just happens, regardless of outside factors. Storge is certainly a powerful love, but it is not the most powerful.
Storge is found nowhere in the New Testament. The word “astorgos” is found twice in the New Testament. Astorgos is the opposite of storge. In Romans 1:31, it is translated “without natural affection” in the KJV and “heartless” in the ESV. Similar translations are found in 2 Timothy 3:3 for the same word.
An interesting word is used in Romans 12:10. It combines two types of love, philos and storge to make the word philostorgos. The NASB translates it as “be devoted”. The KJV translates it as “be kindly affectioned”.
So while we are not specifically commanded to have storge for our family members, that type of love is implied. The absence of it is not spoken of highly, and we are commanded to philostorgeo one another.
Philia: Friendship Love/Brotherly Love
The next type of love is based on the Greek word, philia. This is the love good friends have for each other. Lewis expressed concern that this love was being largely minimalized and avoided in his time. I agree and feel it is even more avoided now. There are very few friends nowadays like David and Jonathan. There are very few friends who care for each other enough to sacrifice greatly. That is absolutely tragic, because philia was at one point viewed as one of the higher loves. It was the least natural, and therefore the love most based on choice. May we be friends who phileo one another.
Eros: Sexual Love
The next type of love is eros. Sadly, this type of love became so immoral in Biblical times that it is not mentioned at all in the New Testament. Eros is, in summation, sexual love. It is the love we usually think about, sexual attraction. While it is not wrong in and of itself, it is often perverted by our degenerating society.
Fact: Eros was actually the Greek god of love. The Romans called him Cupid. Eros is also where we get our English word, erotic.
Erotic love is not sinful. It becomes sinful when it is not in subjection to God’s plan (such as when it leads to fornication or adultery). Eros is perverted when it becomes lust toward someone other than one’s spouse. Eros has a proper place in marriage, but that place is not the base of married love. It is not to be the foundation of any love. The next love, agape, should always trump the other loves.
Agape: Unconditional Love
Agape is the most common word used for love in the New Testament. It is an unconditional love. Lewis believed that it was a strictly Christian love. It is the type of love God loves His own with on an infinite scale. It is a self-sacrificing love. It is the highest of the loves. Agape is mentioned and commanded several times in the New Testament:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
God is Love.
-1 John 4:8,16
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…
The famed “love chapter” of the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 13, is filled with the word agape. A reading of this chapter will show you how powerful this love is.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
-1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Lest we think that agape, the highest of the loves, is above corruption, the New Testament has some references to agape gone bad:
…Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world…
-2 Timothy 4:10
For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
So there you have it, the four loves: storge, philia, eros, and agape. Each one is important, but as Christians, we should subject them all to agape. I highly recommend you study the Biblical usage of these words as well as read Lewis’ book, “The Four Loves”.
This is the conclusion of our series on emotions for 2017. To see the other articles, click one of the links below. As always, feel free to comment with questions or shoot us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to like, follow, and share this and any of our other articles with those who may be interested.
Love: Being a Christian does not dilute love and passion, it increases it.